A group pictured at the ICBE launch
Nuala Ryan, KBS, Sarah Mac Curtain, KBS, Paul Healy, CEO Skillnet Ireland, Maeve Toohey, KBS, Carolan Lennon, Country Lead Salesforce, Sarah Kieran, KBS, Finbarr Murphy, Executive Dean KBS, Maeve Toohey, KBS, Professor Shane Kilcommins, Deputy President and Provost UL, pictured at the launch of the report
Thursday, January 19, 2023

35% of senior leaders in Ireland report feeling burnt out as they contend with the challenges of hybrid working, multigenerational workforces, digital transformation as well as global concerns such as climate, energy and the economy, according to new University of Limerick research.

These new insights into what it is like to lead in Ireland today were revealed at the launch of an extensive and thought-provoking study of senior business leaders. They called for a new style of leadership to fit this post pandemic world of work.

This extensive study on leadership in Ireland was commissioned by the Irish Centre for Business Excellence Skillnet (ICBE) and undertaken by the KBS WorkFutures Lab at the University of Limerick.

Paul Healy, Chief Executive, Skillnet Ireland, said: “Our talented and skilled workforce, including our business leadership, is at the heart of Ireland’s economic competitiveness. ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet’s report, developed in partnership with the Kemmy Business School at UL, provides a clear picture of the importance of the leader’s role in steering an organisation in uncertain times and offers some powerful insights on trends towards a model of sustainable leadership. Skillnet Ireland looks forward to playing its fullest role in developing the sustainable leadership capabilities required for challenges such as digitalisation and climate change.”

Eamonn Murphy, MD ICBE, said: “Ensuring sites remain strategically relevant amidst the growing trend of de-globalisation is a key concern for leaders in Ireland. Many of those interviewed said hybrid work is having mixed results. It can lead to increased inclusivity and connectivity, but it can also prove harder to influence and negotiate at corporate level, with fewer opportunities to sell an idea or secure investment.”

Sarah Kieran, Assistant Dean of the KBS Academy and principal investigator on the study said: “Leaders in Ireland today are challenging the traditional norms of leadership because they can see that the romanticised view of leadership, the hero-leader at the top of the organisation, is not relevant for the times we live in. 

“They recognise that leadership must be encouraged and sustained down through the organisation and know a more human-centric approach to work is the only way forward. They believe that without significant changes in organisations the next generation will not step up to lead.”

A significant outcome of this study was the need for self-regulation as leader, the ability to manage one’s time, priorities and emotions as one navigates the challenges that the current world of business presents.  

Leaders also recognise the need for a safe environment for senior leaders to learn from and sustain each other. Such skills are formed over time, ideally among peers. Leaders stress the importance of having a strong network of like-minded people to support their journey.

In response ICBE in collaboration with the Kemmy Business School will, later this year launch a new programme to facilitate this type of peer-to-peer networking.

In her contribution to this research Carolan Lennon, Country Lead, Salesforce Ireland noted: “What do you have to be to be a leader now? You have to be comfortable with not following the path of previous leaders. In fact, you need to figure out what you need to break.

The research confirmed that the style and skills that brought today’s leaders to the top of the organisation will not sustain organisations into the future.

A new approach to leadership is emerging in Irish organisations, moving to a form of shared leadership, a more holistic, human-centred style, where the wellbeing of employees is more central – referred to as sustainable leadership.